Facebook statistics don’t always tell the truth

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Teenagers are giving up on Facebook – at least that’s what some of the statistics would have you believe. But like all statistics there are some hidden facts behind them. Let’s look at the facts we do know.

According to Facebook themselves – and they should know – some 200m people log into the site every day. That’s half of the 400m active users who are daily users of Facebook. Not much sign, then, of the “Facebook Exodus” that was recently reported. And we are told that only a third of Facebook’s users are teenagers. The average age of Facebook users is mid-30s; it is not the preserve of kids, as some of the media coverage might lead us to believe.

So should we be worried about the latest “study” which shows that “teens are moving on” from Facebook? According to this “research” teenagers are departing from Facebook and compared with two years ago the numbers are downwards. Apart from the fact that two years ago some of the youngsters that could have been counted are no longer included because they are – well, older – this study also misses out an important fact. It was conducted at the height of the school exam season, when teenagers would have their heads down in textbooks (we hope…!). In other words, it’s a bit like a study which tells us the number of people visiting the seaside is “down”, only to discover that the counting was done in the depth of winter.

There’s another issue with this research. It says that the main reason children are leaving Facebook is boredom. And who is behind the research? Oh yes, an online fashion game, designed to make online activity fun for youngsters. QED m’Lud.

Here’s the thing about some studies of online activity. They either state the obvious – or they fail to take into account all the possible factors – as in this case, it seems. So, when you see headlines telling you teens are leaving Facebook, you might be tempted to change what you do online, if they are an important market for you. Alternatively, you might flock towards Facebook if you think it is no longer the domain of kids. Either way, it’s wrong.

Here’s the truth: the online world  is very, very similar to the offline one. Teenagers are fickle offline and take up activities and drop them quickly. It is all part of growing up and developing self-identity. So if it is happening with Facebook, that’s no surprise. What is a surprise is that people are surprised by it…!

For your business, all you really need to know is that the online world is much like the real world. That means, organising your online business in much the same way and avoid being misdirected by headlines and weak research.

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